A Solution To Sore Ankles After Running

We all have experienced sore ankles after running some or the other time. Sometimes, the soreness goes away on its own while other times we find the nagging pain annoying us for a few days or weeks. There can be several factors which cause sore ankles after running.

The Foot

the foot
The foot is made up of complex joints

Our feet are divided into 3 parts – forefoot, midfoot and hind foot.

The type of foot to ground contact differs in runners. Long distance runners use heel first whereas sprinters are mid foot strikers.

The ankle joints are a part of the hind foot. It is a complex joint 1and its pain function is to manage the body’s weight against the forces produced by the ground on contact.

A successful completion of this function is essential for the joint to carry out activities like walking and running without ease.

The anatomical structure involved in the whole procedure includes – the ankle bone or talus, the heel bone or calcaneum2, the ankle joint and the subtalar joint.

The ankle joint mainly performs four movements – plantarflexion, dorsiflexion, inversion and eversion.

Our feet consist of a large variety of muscles, ligaments and tendons. The muscles are arranged as a layer underneath the foot to serve as a padding.

The Achilles tendon3 is a very important tendon that attaches the calf muscles to the heel bone. Injury to any of the muscles, tendons or ligament structures contributes to ankle pain and ankle problems.

Sore ankles after running can be due to orthopedic conditions, faulty biomechanics or injuries. It is essential to know about the cause of sore ankle to prevent further deterioration of the condition.’

Symptoms of Sore Ankles After Running

symptoms of sore ankles after running
Swelling is very common in people who experience sore ankles after running
  • Swelling

Sore ankles while running can be due to acute or chronic conditions. The treatment for these conditions may vary and if very severe, one should consult a physical therapist for the same.

1) Sprain

ankle sprain
Sore ankle after running is seen in ankle sprain and is common amongst many athletes

Sprain is an injury to the ligaments. Ligaments are tough elastic bands that connect one bone to the another. Sprains are very common among runners and is an acute injury.

The mechanism of injury depends on how the runner was running. Our foot has many ligaments that help in keeping the bones joined together. Sprains are mostly caused due to a sudden jerk or twisting force on the ankle, causing the ligament to snap.

Symptoms of ankle sprains include swelling, pain, tenderness, and loss of function.

What To Do For Sore Ankles After Running Due To Sprain?

If taken proper care, ankle sprains tend to get better within few days to weeks. Moderate to severe type of sprain may take up to 6 weeks. The first aid treatment for sore ankle due to ankle sprain includes the mnemonics – PRICE and HARM.

PRICE stands for:

P- Proper protection of the ankle injury with a brace

R- Rest

I- Icing the swollen area for 15 minutes, 3 times a day

C- Compression with the help of an elastic bandage

E- Elevation of the foot

HARM stands for:

H- Heat

A- Alcohol

R- Running

M- Massage

In case the symptoms persist for more than 6 weeks; you must seek proper medical advice diagnosis.

2) Strain

Ankle muscle strain
Ankle muscle strain and cramps cause sudden ankle pain in runners

Strain is a type of overuse injury that affects the muscles and tendons. Foot and ankle pain caused due to strain can be because of excessive overloading of activity on the foot or even the calves, which in turn leads to sore ankles after running.

There are three grades of strain that can determine the severity of the injury:

Grade 1 – A little painful, increases muscle tightness and decreases flexibility. There may be discomfort while performing activities.

Grade 2 – Partial tear or loss of tissue along with localized pain and ankle soreness during activity and on touch.

Grade 3 – Total rupture of involved muscle tissue where there is extreme pain while carrying out any activity. This is a serious injury and requires the advice, diagnosis and treatment through physical therapy.

What To Do For Sore Ankles After Running Due To Strain?

The protocol for ankle strains and sprains is almost the same. Here we follow the mnemonic RICE where,

R – Resting the injured part

I – Icing the ankle to reduce swelling

C – Compression of the ankle using a crepe bandage

E – Elevating the foot to avoid further inflammation

Avoid strenuous exercises for a few days to weeks depending on the recovery of symptoms. Once the symptoms subside, opt for ankle muscle strengthening exercises or seek advice from a PT DPT of sports medicine for proper rehab.

3) Stress Fracture

stress fracture
Stress Fracture is a type of over use injury

Stress fractures4 are very commonly seen in runners and people who are very active. There are a few areas in the foot that are prone to repeated stress while carrying out activities. Due to overusing, the bone cannot cope up with the amount of load being put on it and hence it leads to fracture.

The most common bone is the navicular bone that undergoes stress fracture in the ankle joint.

What To Do In Case of Sore Ankles After Running Due to Stress Fractures?

Stress fracture is a serious ankle injury and should be immediately given medical attention. If there is swelling along with bruising and loss of foot shape, you might consider stress fracture as a cause. The treatment for stress fracture can be conservative or surgical, depending on the severity of the fracture.

In case of conservative treatment, the doctor would prescribe a plaster for 6 weeks. The swelling lone would take 10-15 days to subside.

In case of surgery, the fracture is fixed with nails and plates and then braced with plaster for 6-8 weeks.

4) Achilles Tendonitis

Achilles tendonitis
Achilles tendonitis in inflammation of the tendon of foot

Achilles tendonitis is essentially an inflammation of the Achilles tendon and is an overuse injury. The Achilles tendon runs from the heel bone to the calf muscles and is responsible for the propulsion of the foot.

The overuse of this tendon causes inflammation and micro tearing of the muscle which leads to pain in the ankle. The pain can also be radiated towards the calf muscles as well.

The main cause of Achilles tendonitis is running. The first symptom that the runners experience is sore ankles after running as well as a mild discomfort at the back of the heel.

What To Do For Sore Ankles After Running Due To Achilles Tendonitis?

The treatment protocol involves assessing the activity levels of the runner. The runner must reduce all the running activities and carry out more of swimming activities to decrease pressure on the Achilles tendon.

Strengthening and stretching of the calf muscles and tendons is very important to decrease the chances of micro tearing.

5) Arthritis Of The Ankle Joint

Swimming can be done as an alternative to running by people suffering from ankle arthritis

Arthritis is the degeneration of the cartilage around the joint. Ankle arthritis can be due to primary osteoarthritis which is a hereditary disease.

Post traumatic arthritis is most commonly seen in ankle joint due to frequent ankle instability injuries or fractures which further cause degeneration.

Another inflammatory arthritis like rheumatoid, gout and septic arthritis also cause ankle arthritis which can be a cause of sore ankle after running.

What To Do For Sore Ankles After Running In Case Of Ankle Arthritis?

Two most recommended treatment protocols for ankle arthritis include stretching and strengthening.

Stretching:  Ankle pumps to help in lubrication of joint and promotes blood flow. 15-20 reps 2-3 times a day is recommended daily for improvement of the condition.

Strengthening: Calf raises to strengthen the calf muscles to support your ankle and improve mobility.

You can carry out the exercise in this order – 3 seconds to raise, 3 seconds to hold and 3 seconds to lower; 5-10 reps.

This exercise can cause muscle fatigue at times. In case the muscles get adapted to the exercise, you can use weights to amp up the exercise.

Talk to a medical professional about your arthritis. You may be prescribed with medications for treatment of your condition.

6) Deformed Foot

foot orthosis
Customized footwear can be made for deformed feet

High arched foot5 also known as pes cavus or contracted foot is a very common cause for sore ankles after running. The foot is not flexible enough in this deformity and moves in a wrong way causing biomechanical disfunction of the foot while running and irritating the muscles and tendons of the ankle and foot.

This makes it more susceptible to ankle overuse injuries and other conditions like bursitis and plantar fasciitis.

What To Do In Case Of Sore Ankles After Running Due To Deformed Foot?

Talk to a physiotherapist about your condition and get proper treatment accordingly. Wear proper foot wear while running. Use custom made footwear for your arches.

Fitness is a very important aspect of life and nothing should come in between you and your fitness.

Sore ankles after running are quite treatable and if taken proper care, it is also possible to terminate this problem entirely, enabling you to run pain free.

Name – Suvangi Chanda

Qualification – MBBS Student

Instagram handle – https://instagram.com/_suvangi._?igshid=NTdlMDg3MTY=

  1. Hofmann, Holger F. “Complex joint probabilities as expressions of reversible transformations in quantum mechanics.” New Journal of Physics 14.4 (2012): 043031. ↩︎
  2. Fiamengo, Steven A., et al. “Posterior heel pain associated with a calcaneal step and Achilles tendon calcification.” Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research® 167 (1982): 203-211. ↩︎
  3. Järvinen, Tero AH, et al. “Achilles tendon injuries.” Current opinion in rheumatology 13.2 (2001): 150-155. ↩︎
  4. Bennell, Kim, et al. “Risk factors for stress fractures.” Sports medicine 28 (1999): 91-122. ↩︎
  5. Woźniacka, R., et al. “Body weight and the medial longitudinal foot arch: high-arched foot, a hidden problem?.” European journal of pediatrics 172 (2013): 683-691. ↩︎

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